Smells and Sleepies

Motherhood Moments

I’ve been navigating some deep waters this week, so let me lighten things up a bit for this Thursday Motherhood Moment.

The past two days, the kids and I have spent in the car in Illinois, which I hope excuses my absence yesterday. And along about mile marker 152 last night, five hours into my adventure, I began reflecting on the smells of motherhood.

There are the good ones—the strawberry shampoo we use on the kids’ hair. The sweetness of skin marinated in peach juice and syrup. Baby lotions. The purity of clean baby skin, which is a feast for all the senses. (You know how I love to chew on babies.)

There are others, too. In the early months, there’s the smell of my own milk, which I hate to admit I quickly tire of. There’s spitup and various other bodily output, whose smell, at times, simply does not wash off the hands. And the acrid, bitter smell of Julianna’s glasses. (Isn’t that odd? But I smell them whenever I kiss her.)

Yesterday morning very early (call it 5ish), I woke in the back room of my in-laws’ house to the sound of Julianna fidgeting and whining. I got up and brought her into bed with me, and after a great deal of negotiation, she finally consented to go back to sleep in the crook of my arm. I, of course, did not go back to sleep, but inhaled the faint lingering presence of shampoo in her hair until Nicholas woke up and demanded his morning nursing. Which he immediately began regurgitating in sour-smelling little splats all over the house. (What’s up with that? He hasn’t spit up in two months!)

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law hosted a cookie exchange yesterday, which was the purpose of the long trip. As you might imagine, there was a lot of passing children around. You know how, when someone holds your child, the unfamiliar smell clings to the baby afterward? So I got various whiffs of perfume and detergents. And then, feeling the sleepiness skulking around, looking for entry, I snagged a can of Pepsi and we got back on the road.

It was nap time…a great time to drive with kids, except when you could use a snooze yourself. The Pepsi held me almost to St. Louis, but in slapping myself awake, I missed the turnoff for 255 which would have cut twenty minutes off the drive to my grandmother’s. Nice. Still, there’s something about Grandma/Great-Grandma’s house. A certain smell of thousands of good meals wraps around you when you walk in, exuding warmth and love. An hour at Grandma’s (oh yes, and snacks) refreshed all of us. We climbed back in the van and took off…through rush hour in St. Louis.

We did all right until we hit a backup trying to get on I-64. And then I began feeling the sleepiness nosing for entry again. Uh-oh. Okay, I thought, let’s get through the traffic and get as far as we can before it catches up to me.

Traffic was terrible…actually, very average for St. Louis, but I usually manage to squeeze through just before it gets bad, so this was a particularly irksome drive. I tried to get over in the left lane so we could get a steady speed going, but I guess that’s not how traffic works. People go as fast as possible and then slam on their brakes, and try as I might to keep from following suit, I kept having to make big speed adjustments. But we had finally gotten to Chesterfield, and I was finally beginning to relax, when all of a sudden, without warning…

BLECH, went Alex’s stomach in the back seat.

Oh, you thought I was done talking about smells?

BLECH. I am in the left lane of FIVE, at rush hour in ST. LOUIS.


It took me two miles to get across traffic, and I was pretty sure that pulling off on the shoulder during rush hour was a bad idea. We took an exit and parked at office building. By then, the smell of half-digested fruit and gingerbread…

But Christian doesn’t want me to get too graphic, so I’ll move on. Let’s just say, I have a rrrrrreeeaaaaallly unpleasant cleanup job to do on the upholstery of my back seat.

Well, it was an adventure. After that, at least, I managed to outrun the sleepiness. It chased me all the way down I-70, and caught me as I staggered around my kitchen, trying to grab a bite of dinner before choir practice.

And now that I know I can travel solo over long distances with three kids, I feel no need to ever…EVER…prove it again.